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National Shell Museum ambassadors to help beach-goers enjoy the Sanibel experience

By Staff | Aug 24, 2016

Paul Gulbrandsen wears one of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum ambassador shirts in which certified ambassadors will wear to share education and information with Sanibel beach-goers. Here, he helps David and Sallie Pins during a day on the beach. Photo by MELANIE MORAGA

Soon Sanibel beach-goers will have personal educational guides to ask questions and learn first hand about Florida shelling laws, as well as some factual tips about what kinds of treasures which wash up on the sands of the island.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is starting an ambassador program, which will train volunteers about the beach ecosystem, as well as teach them certain laws which are vital for both tourists and all beach goers to abide by.

“These ambassadors will be visible on the beaches for people to see, since they will be wearing (National Shell Museum) ambassador shirts,” said National Shell Museum marine biologist Stefanie Wolf. “The ambassadors will help identify different shells and marine life which wash up on the shore. They will also demonstrate proper ways to put live mollusks back in the water, among other things.”

One of the most common mistake people who are not familiar with Florida laws, is the taking of shells which still have a live marine organism inside. It’s against the law to remove any living seashell off the beach.

“These ambassadors will be our beach experts, who will be available to the public and will be walking around on the beaches,” Wolf said. “It will be a good way to educate people about the beaches.”

Training for the volunteers will start in October and there already has been an “overwhelming” response, Wolf said.

Each of Wolf and National Shell Museum education director Dr. Lin Muilenburg will be in charge of the ambassador program. Volunteers will go through three different sessions in October.

The first will focus on identifying the various sea shells of Southwest Florida. The second will be teaching the volunteers the ethical ways to approach beach guests and what to say, as well as who to call if a problem arises.

The final session will be an education on the beach ecosystem and the many different marine species which live in the Gulf of Mexico.

The program will be locally concentrated, with Sanibel beaches being the main area in which the ambassadors will be visible on.

But ambassadors will not be looked upon as beach police and enforcers.

“They will not be policing the beaches and harassing people,” Wolf said. “It will be fully for educational purposes, not to asking people what’s in their buckets.”

Another positive the ambassadors will bring is attention to the National Shell Museum and all the fine aspects it offers. It will be an opportunity to spread the word about the museum, while bringing educational benefits about the beach environment.

Volunteers must be of at least 18 years old of age. To attend the ambassador training sessions in October, volunteers can call the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum at 239-395-2233 or toll free at 888-679-6450. Ask for Stefanie Wolf or Dr. Lin Muilenburg about joining the ambassador program.